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How the Coyotes and Duclair reached the impasse that led to his trade

Arizona Coyotes left wing Anthony Duclair (10) shoots against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Anthony Duclair never wanted to leave Arizona, his agent, Kent Hughes said Thursday. When Duclair was a healthy scratch in five of six games, and seven of nine from Oct. 30 to Nov. 14, however, Hughes saw warning signs.

“I told Anthony ‘I have concerns when they’re scratching you [that often] that it’s more than they are trying to get you to do something,’ — unless they’re on a winning streak, which they weren’t,” Hughes said. “You don’t come out for those kinds of substantial intervals, at least not in my experience, unless as a coach you feel you can put a better team on the ice without him in the lineup.”

That’s when Hughes said he requested that Coyotes general manager John Chayka trade Duclair — a request that was granted Wednesday when the Coyotes sent Duclair to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Richard Panik.

“From our perspective, it wasn’t working and we were concerned that it wasn’t going to work,” Hughes said. “I’m sure John felt the same way and we’re hopeful it works out for both sides.”

Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet publicly questioned Duclair’s work ethic earlier this season when he said, “I just don’t think the effort’s there, quite frankly, on every night.”

Former Coyotes coach Dave Tippett also questioned Duclair’s commitment level and general manager John Chayka said that history was a significant factor in the decision to trade Duclair.

“This has gone back for a few years now where the team wasn’t particularly happy with the player and the player wasn’t particularly happy with the team,” Chayka said. “It was probably best to change the scenery for both sides.

“There’s a lot of things that go into a trade, some of them are readily apparent. You see Anthony play, his speed and skill is obvious to everyone. There’s some things that I think can stay behind closed doors.”

Privately, the Coyotes have concrete examples of Duclair’s less-than-ideal commitment level, whether it was off-ice training or on-ice play, but his teammates, past and present, vouch for him.

“It’s really tough when you lose one of your best buddies like that,” said forward Max Domi, who spoke to Duclair after the trade. “I think he needed a new scene and a bit of a change.

“He’s an unbelievable hockey player and just a great person. He’s really pumped and I think it helps that [former Coyote and current Blackhawk Connor Murphy] is going to be there. I don’t think anybody around the league realizes how fast and how skilled Duke is. It wouldn’t surprise me if he goes on an absolute tear when he gets there.”

Hughes acknowledged Duclair’s history with the Coyotes coaching staffs.

“I’m not sitting here saying Anthony is perfect,” he said. “You never have a situation like this without some responsibility going to more than one party. Anthony got himself in that situation with Tippett.

“Some guys have body language issues and I think Anthony does where sometimes it looks like he’s not working hard even if he is.”

There have also been questions about Duclair’s ability to think the game at the NHL pace, and his situational awareness, but Hughes took issue with the suggestion that Duclair had problems with his first team, the New York Rangers. New York traded Duclair to Arizona at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline.

“The Rangers didn’t trade Anthony Duclair away for anything other than that was the cost of getting Keith Yandle,” Hughes said. “I don’t think it’s fair to characterize that it’s now two teams that it hasn’t worked with. This is the first team.”

Hughes wouldn’t speculate on whether Duclair was singled out on a team rife with underperforming players and the league’s worst record.

“At the end of the day, we can get caught up in the moment,” he said. “The proof will be in his body of work when we look back at it all. Obviously, the Chicago Blackhawks feel that this was a worthwhile trade and I know there were other teams interested in the player. I’m hopeful it proves to be a case of a change of scenery works for him and a change of scenery works for Panik.”

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